News Tuesday, JULY 18th, 2000

Klaus accuses Havel of politicising the new electoral law

The leader of the opposition Civic Democratic Party, Vaclav Klaus, has said he is confident that the Constitutional Court will not find a new law that modifies the country's electoral system unconstitutional. His comments came after President Havel, who strongly opposes the electoral reforms, asked the Constitutional Court to investigate the law to see whether it does break the constitution. The law modifies the election system for the lower house of parliament in a way which favours larger parties over small ones, and was voted through parliament thanks to the support of the two largest parties, Mr Klaus's Civic Democrats and the ruling Social Democrats. Mr Klaus heavily criticised President Havel's latest attempt to use the court to block the law, accusing him of trying to undermine the democratic process and the will of the majority.

Freedom Party: Czech EU membership 'impossible' with Benes decrees

Austria's far-right Freedom Party has described the Czech Republic's admission to the European Union as 'impossible', until it scraps post-war decrees which sanctioned the expulsion of two and half million ethnic Germans, known as Sudeten Germans. The decrees, signed by President Benes in 1945, remain part of the Czech legal order. The Freedom Party, which entered government with the conservative Peoples' Party earlier this year, called for the Austrian government's commissioner for EU enlargement to make public talks held last week with officials in Prague. Eastwards expansion of the European Union must be unanimously approved by all fifteen EU members states, including Austria.

Foreign Minister ends Middle East visit

The Czech Foreign Minister, Jan Kavan, has ended a five day visit to the Middle East, which saw the opening of a Czech diplomatic mission in the Palestinian Authority. On the last day of his visit, which included both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Mr Kavan discussed Czech-Israeli economic cooperation with the chairman of the Israeli parliament, and the possibility of Czech participation in a number of important state tenders. The leader of the opposition Likud Party expressed surprise that trade between the Czech Republic and Israel is at such a low level, despite their common interests.

Klaus: Temelin 'peak of modern technology'

The leader of Civic Democrats, Vaclav Klaus, has visited the recently-completed Temelin nuclear power station in South Bohemia, describing the plant as representing the peak of modern technology. Mr Klaus, visiting Temelin after operators announced the loading of nuclear fuel was now complete, said he hoped Temelin would be put into action in the near future. He also rejected recent calls for a referendum on the plant. More than one hundred thousand people have now signed a petition calling for a referendum on Temelin, which was recently completed amid concerns over safety and escalating costs.

Zeman fined 20,000 crowns after failing to apologise to Wagner

The Czech Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, has been fined 20,000 crowns for failing to apologise to a former party colleague. Mr Zeman was fined for contempt of court after failing to apologise for slandering former Social Democrat member Josef Wagner. The prime minister, known for his sharp tongue and aggressive style, has lost several libel cases in recent years, and must still apologise to Mr Wagner or face further fines of up to 100,000 crowns. Mr Zeman was ordered to apologise after claiming that Mr Wagner had tried to join the Communist Party after being expelled from the Social Democrats in 1997. Mr Wagner was expelled from the Social Democrats for voting with the former right-wing government on the budget.

Czech bus driver charged after Chilean coach crash

A Czech bus driver accused of causing Sunday's fatal crash in central Bohemia has been charged with endangering public safety, and could face five years in prison if found guilty. A coach carrying the Chilean national in-line hockey team to a tournament in the Czech Republic collided with a local bus on Sunday morning, killing the team doctor and injuring several players. Police say the driver of the Czech bus failed to give way to oncoming traffic.

Culture Minister sacks Czech Philharmonic chief

The Minister of Culture has sacked the General Director of the Czech Philharmonic, following disagreements with the orchestra and its chief conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy. General Director Jiri Kovar, who was appointed in 1995, said he was satisfied with his work in the orchestra and would be reapplying for the post, but orchestra members have criticised him heavily, accusing him of running the orchestra in the style a military unit.

Czech Television appoints new news chief

Czech Television has announced that news presenter Bohumil Klepetko has been appointed as the station's head of news. Mr Klepetko replaces Zdenek Samal, who resigned in June amid allegations of political pressure. Mr Samal came under pressure to resign after he refused to broadcast Czech Television's response to allegations by a popular daily that Civic Democrat leader Vaclav Klaus was exerting political pressure on the station's management.


And finally a quick look at the weather. It's another cool and cloudy day in Prague, with scattered showers and we can expect temperatures to stay at a chilly 12 to 16 degrees Celsius. And I'm afraid we can expect it to remain much the same tomorrow.